Wednesday, May 5, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: about grace by Anthony Doerr

 I dove into a backlist novel for my current read. about grace by Anthony Doerr was published in 2004, before All the Light We Cannot See, a WWII novel that I loved. This one is not a historical novel, but it wonderfully illustrates the author’s versatility.

The writing is perfect, drawing me into a story that is slowly paced yet nevertheless compelling. It has a premise that is otherwordly, but so richly detailed that it reads as believable. 

The protagonist, David Winkler, is a hydrologist–a scientist fascinated by water, particularly by snow. He leads a fairly isolated existence, guarding a bizarre secret: he sometimes dreams the future. He has seen horrible, fatal accidents as well as mundane daily mishaps in his dreams, then watched helplessly as the events occur. He foresees his own meeting, in a grocery store, of the woman he will eventually marry. And then, he dreams of his infant daughter’s death in a flash flood. Worse, he dreams of his desperate attempt to rescue her, an attempt that culminates with her drowning in his arms. When rain starts to fall in real life, and the sodden ground can take no more, he desperately tries to get his wife to run with him. Of course, she thinks he’s nuts. And when the dream begins to spool out in front of him in real life, he runs as far as he can, ending up on a remote Caribbean island, where he lives out the next twenty-five years of his life.

David lives hand-to-mouth, his life entwining with that of a refugee couple on the island, who have a young daughter of their own. She becomes something of a surrogate daughter for David, but he never forgets his wife and his own child, Grace. Although he wrote hundreds of letters to his wife, finally begging only to know if his daughter survived, he receives no answer to that most important question. Eventually, he is pulled back to the U.S. to try to find out.

It’s a strange odyssey. Back in 2004, locating a wife and daughter abandoned a quarter century prior was no simple matter, so it makes for an obsessive and dangerous trek. Again, not exactly credible and yet somehow the quest is realistic because of the confident presentation of the minute (and often scientific) details. The novel is a moving exploration of themes of love, family, forgiveness, and the strange workings of fate. Highly recommended.

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